Suffering from Elf on the Shelf anxiety this year? Yup, it's a thing. Are you overwhelmed by the tiny red man with great big demands? Did you run out of time to hatch a magically Pinterest-worthy Elf plan this holiday season? Or you completely forget to move the elf for days at a time?

Mama, we hear you and totally understand.

Elf on the Shelf—though awesome in so many ways—isn't for everyone. And if it's feeling more like a chore than a charming Christmas tradition this season, we've got four ideas that are just as fun but a lot less work. So don't let that Elf get you down, mama! Remember, even the smallest things can spark holiday magic in the eyes of our little ones. Don't stress, have fun, and enjoy the season.

Christmas Is Coming! An advent-style podcast from Pinna

Christmas Is Coming!

All you need to do for this one is download and hit play—it doesn't get much easier than that!

Pinna, a new screen-free and ad-free storytelling app for kids, features award-winning series, interactive game shows, audiobooks, and children's podcasts. Its show—Christmas Is Coming!—is an advent-style podcast with a new episode released daily from December 1st through Christmas Eve.

Each day, kids can tune into the North Pole's radio station, WXMAS, and listen to breaking Christmas news.

We got the chance to preview some of the episodes, and our kiddos were hooked! We love the creativity of the storyline, the screen-free entertainment, and the ease of just pressing play.

$7.99

Christmas Countdown Surprise Box

Christmas Countdown Surprise Box

A Christmas Countdown Surprise Box, originally posted on the Teach Me Mommy blog, is just that: a box filled with bags for each day of December that each hold a small surprise. All you'll need is a cardboard box (or any type of box, really), 25 envelopes or brown bags and some blank stickers. And of course some small surprises for inside of the envelopes.

We love this idea because you can do as much—or as little—as you'd like, and you can customize the bags' content depending on the age of your kiddos. If you want to get creative, you can decorate the outside of the box and the envelopes, but you definitely don't have to.

The best part will be watching your little ones' faces light up as they open a new surprise each day. Download the free template and find most of the item needed in your home.

$0.00

Random acts of kindness Christmas calendar

Random acts of kindness

We love anything that builds our children's sense of social consciousness. The Random Acts of Kindness Christmas Calendar, is a simple way to show kids that they can have a powerful impact on others.

All you'll need for this one is a blank calendar so you can fill in your own acts of kindness. Each day can be customized based on your children's ages and what sorts of activities you think you and your family are up for.

It's not only easy, but the payoff is huge—you're teaching your kiddos about helping others, and that's a lesson that will last longer than any holiday gift ever could.

$4.99

Christmas book countdown

Christmas book countdown

Have a little bookworm on your hands? We love this idea both as a holiday activity and a way to build your family's holiday book collection year over year.

Countdown to Christmas with a different holiday book each day! Or, to make it easier on yourself, open a book "package" every few days, or even sub a few books with your family's favorite holiday movies.

You can use a mix of new books and books you already own—trust me, your kids will most likely have forgotten about them since last year! (Same goes for the movies—use the ones you already have, or include a little note instead that gives kids a few movie downloads.)

All you'll need is wrapping paper for each book or movie, and a cute way to display them. It's easy and adorable!

$10


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Aside from hygienic reasons, there's something about a bath that's soothing, inviting and relaxing. Even little ones can enjoy the benefits of self-care but they often need a little bit of entertainment while they're getting cleaned. Because they are so small and constantly putting anything in their mouths, it's important to use toys that are just as safe as they are entertaining.

We gathered a few best practices from the American Academy of Pediatrics for safe bath time with infants and kids and our favorite products to keep our littles having fun in the water:

  • Use a safe, sturdy tub. Baby bathtubs can be "bucket style" for sitting upright, slanted for support, inflatable, folding and spa-style.
  • Be aware of bumps, edges and slings. Consider avoiding tubs with slings and pay close attention to any bumps or edges that pose a risk.
  • Never leave a child alone in a bathtub. Children can drown in 1 or 2 inches of water so make sure you're not stepping away from the bathroom or leaving babies in the care of another child.
  • Check water temperature. Lower the temperature of your water heater to no more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid burns.

Here are our favorite safe bath toys for infants and toddlers. And of course, always check (and double check) toy labels for age guidelines and hazard warnings:

Green Toys tide pool bath set

Green Toys tide pool bath set

This 7-piece bath set includes a starfish, scallop, abalone, snail, squid and jellyfish, as well as a seaweed-patterned storage bag that are packaged using recyclable materials and printed with environmentally responsible inks. Each piece is designed to pour water in a different way—scoop up water with the abalone and create a cascading waterfall with the holes along the edge, or fill the jellyfish and watch the water run down and out each of the legs.

$12.77

B&H baby thermometer

B&H baby thermometer

Ever wonder if your baby is too hot or too cold during bath time? This high and low temperature alarm includes an accurate thermometer that flashes and beeps when water is at a non-optimal temperature. It also doubles as a bath toy that complies with the Consumer Product Safety Commission's toys safety standards, so you don't have to worry if the thermometer will produce chemical reactions in water. Genius!

$16.99

Sophie la girafe so pure bath toy

Sophie la girafe so pure bath toy

Babies can have fun chewing away this Sophie bath toy because it's made of 100% natural rubber from the rubber tree's sap. The rubber ring is also easy to grip so little ones can have full confidence splashing and playing around. And don't worry, water can't get inside the toy so bacteria and mold won't form.

$23.93

Skip Hop bath puzzle

Skip Hop bath puzzle

A puzzle and bath book in one? Yes, we'll take it! The pages float in water and stick to bath tiles so you're child will be entertained the entire time they're in the water. We love that the handy stroller ring keeps it all together when they're done.

$8.00

Green Toys my first tugboat

Green Toys my first tugboat

This cool tugboat toy is safe for the earth as well as your child. It's made with 100% recycled plastic milk containers, which helps save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and is free from BPA, PVC and phthalates. It also features a wide spout which will help them scoop and pour water while exploring in the water.

$11.91

Boon marco light-up bath toy

Boon marco light-up bath toy

If you have older kids and are less concerned with them putting toys in their mouth, your kid might enjoy Marco. Put Marco in water and watch him float while the color-changing light activates. It's BPA-free, too.

$11.99

Skip Hop light up bath toy

Skip Hop light up bath toy

Featuring water-activated multicolor lights, this soft and squeezable bath toy is sure to make a splash with any child in your life. Choose from a dinosaur or unicorn with the phthalate-free materials.

$4.50

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If you haven't bought an Instant Pot yet, what are you waiting for, mama? It's one of those holy grail items that, once used, you're not sure how you ever lived without it. In fact, it was one of the most-purchased items from Motherly mamas last year and was life-changing for one of our editors when she finally caved and tried it out for her family.

Whether you're a chef who loves to make gourmet meals or a mama who hates cooking and needs more time in the day, it's one of those products that works for everyone.

And, the Instant Pot is on super sale today on Amazon—just $56.99.

Instant Pot 6-quart

instant pot sale

Why does it have such a cult following? Because it cuts down on cooking time and you can cook just about anything in it. It acts as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer and warmer all in one. And the smart one-touch program makes cooking ribs, soups and desserts so much easier.

The 6-quart size cooks for up to six people, making it the perfect size for your family, and is 29% off today.

$56.99

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Music's biggest night was filled with show-stopping braids, sculpted baby hairs and to die for curls, but there was one music icon and mom-of-three whose hair stole the night—and it was created using drugstore favorites.

Gwen Stefani hit the red carpet with super sleek strands which isn't anything amazing, but when we heard it was created with products all under $10, we had to reach out to this mama's stylist and get the scoop. "Gilded tresses and sleek chic are the vibes I had in mind for this look," says celebrity stylist Danilo. "Effortless glam that is polished and perfected."

The look is extremely budget-friendly and can be achieved at home, continued Danilo. "I like drugstore products because they're reliable; you can find them at major retailers when you need them in a pinch, and a lot of them really work as well as salon-quality products.

Danilo paired Stefani's middle-parted straight hair with glowing skin and a glossy light pink lip. One thing is for sure, this mama secured her place in pop culture history while epitomizing cool-girl chic.

Here are the drugstore products Gwen Stefani used on her hair at the 2020 Grammys:

Suave professionals keratin infusion smoothing shampoo

suave professionals keratin infusion smoothing shampoo

"To prep Gwen's hair, I washed it with suave professionals keratin infusion smoothing shampoo and coconut oil infusion conditioner," says Danilo. "This left her hair silky smooth and nourished."

Pro tip: It's important to practice foundational hair care—treating the hair preciously and using the right products day to day. Nutrient-rich shampoo and conditioner are the key tools for this process.

$2.99

Suave professionals heat defense leave-in conditioner

suave professionals keratin infusion heat defense leave-in conditioner

"While wet, I applied suave professionals keratin infusion heat defense leave-in conditioner to prep the hair before adding heat," says Danilo. "This added another level of protection for the hair and left it touchable and soft."

$6.96

Suave professionals sleek anti-frizz smooth & shine cream

suave professionals sleek anti-frizz smooth & shine cream

"Next I applied a dime-sized amount of suave professionals sleek anti-frizz smooth & shine cream to make sure the hair is extra sleek and shiny," says Danilo.

$6.99

Suave professionals flexible control finishing hairspray

suave professionals flexible control finishing hairspray

"Then I blew dry the hair straight, using a mixed bristle brush, and use a flat iron to get rid of any remaining kinks," he says. "I finished her look with suave professionals flexible control finishing hairspray to set the look and add a hint of shine."

$2.94
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Keeping kids entertained without a screen can be tricky—especially when you're stuck inside on a rainy or freezing day. That's why we love having toys and activities around that we know will keep our littles occupied for hours.

Amazon Prime has a bunch of lightning deals available today on screen-free toys and activities. This means there's limited inventory so when the deal is 100% claimed, it's gone for good. So if you've been eyeing a specific item, add to your cart before someone else does!

Here are some of our favorite toys and activities on sale on Amazon today only:

Aqua water drawing magic mat

large water drawing mat

A mat so big multiple kids can use it, but don't worry, it folds up easily to be stored away. Fill the 'magic' marker with water and watch kids write letters and numbers and draw designs. In under 10 minutes, the writing will disappear, ready for more creativity. The best part? No mess and it's 25% off today.

$19.53

STEM magnetic blocks

kids magnetic tiles

Magnetic tiles are the perfect educational toy, allowing kids to get creative with building figures and designs. We love that this set includes number fixture blocks so they can maximize learning while playing. The blocks are 27% off and you can click the coupon before checkout to score an additional 20% savings.

$10.19

10-pc bath toys set

kids bath toys

Make bath time more fun with this set of 16 toys and two scoop nets. Each toy is small enough for little hands to grasp and the nets are helping your little one learn hand-eye coordination. The 4.7-star rated set is 24% off today.

$15.25

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